Our mothers had been best friends since college. They saw each other nearly every day, and were the maids of honor at each other's weddings. And when they had us less than a year apart, they promised that they would raise us together and that we would become best friends, like they were. But then something terrible happened.
I was five, and it was the day before Griffin's sixth birthday. We were playing hide-and-seek in the forest behind my house. It was our favorite game. He had won for the fifth time in a row. I was getting mad; because I was sure he was cheating. He would yell out, "Come and get me, Mola!", and then when I ran to the source of his voice, he wouldn't be there; he'd be standing thirty feet away, with his bright red hair all tangled and his self-satisfied smirk plastered on his face.
Finally, after Griffin's seventh victory, I threw myself at him and started pummeling him as hard as I could, yelling, "Griffin you cheater! I hate you!" He stood the abuse for a bit, but then disappeared. I tried to pull my fist back in time, but I still hit the huge rock that we had been standing on with enough force to bruise my knuckles. I broke down and started crying, holding my fist to my chest.
I didn't even sense him approaching, but suddenly I felt a breath of air push my wispy blonde hair back from my face. Then I felt his gentle hands take hold of my curled fist, and drew it slowly to him. He looked at it, and then he looked at my face. I glared back through red, teary eyes. He whispered, "I'm sorry, Mola."
I jerked my hand back and turned away from him, like the immature five year old that I was. And, like the stubborn almost-six-year-old that he was, he walked around until he was facing me again, and apologized again. I glared at him again and jumped off the rock, running towards my house. He caught up with me and tackled me to the ground.
"Let me go! Let me go Griffin, I hate you!" I kept yelling as he struggled to control me. We were out of hearing distance from the house, so my mother couldn't hear us and break it up. Finally, when I gave up and satisfied myself with giving him the death glare of all death glares. He put his face close to mine and whispered, "Do you want to know a secret?"
My eyes widened as he whispered in my ear how he beat me so many times at hide-and-seek. I looked at him, searching for any hint of a lie in his dark grey eyes. "Promise?" I demanded. He promised. "No crossies!" He let go of my arms and held his hands out to me to show that he wasn't crossing any of his fingers. Satisfied, I got up and hugged him. We chased each other to the house, and hugged him again as his mother came to pick him up.
Before he left, he grabbed my arm and whispered, "You won't tell, will you?" I held out my hands and said, "Promise." Then he left. I watched their old Chevy turn the bend, then ran into the house to eat dinner.
It was the next day that I found out. There had been a gas leak, and the whole house had blown up, setting fire to multiple neighboring houses. When my mother tried to tell me with tears in her eyes that Griffin and his parents weren't coming back, I refused to believe her. Because I knew Griffin's secret. I sat down with my favorite stuffed zebra toy and waited for Griffin to come back. My mother left me alone, thinking that I was too young to understand what she meant. I understood fully. But I knew that Griffin wasn't dead. So I waited.